Looking back on four years ago when I qualified, it was a great year. This made it better:
a) The more work you can do in the evenings, the easier the next day will be. Don’t work past 9pm, and relax before sleep, where possible.
b) Have a time of the week when you do no work at all, ever. Mine was typically Friday evening.
c) Get a car. If you’re car-sharing, do it on your (reasonable) terms.
d) This one depends on your uni and your lifestyle. If you find you are commuting 30-60mins each day for a main-placement, consider lodgings for Sunday – Thursday. You’ll find the extra time there and back a boon.
e) Allocate a time limit for writing PGCE essays and suchlike.
f) Be prepared to take on some extra-curricular in your placement to add a USP to your interviews. It seems far too many NQTs don’t get jobs: on my course everyone found employment, and most were invited to every interview for which they applied. Everyone did extra-curricular.
g) Get a subscription to teachit.co.uk. And to NATE.
h) A big one this: ensure you befriend the diligent colleagues on your course to share resources, ideas, hopes and fears.
I) The most important thing is being healthy and vibrant enough to put on a performance the next day. I never worked past 9pm (save on 3-5 days over the entire year) and read before sleep every night. One lass worked until 2am and seemed to be fine, but then again she was able to socialise until 4am on a Saturday and recover rather well the next day, too. Being sharp is key.
J) Who you are in your teaching role is more important than what you do. In my view, literacy is the most important subject in school. And numeracy after that. But English teachers and maths teachers are not necessarily the most important teachers.
K) As a teacher you are cartoon character, a caricature of who you really are. The character of me as a teacher is not who I really am, and I’ll say/do anything that I can to promote the persona of myself as a teacher.
L) You’ll never have as much time to develop (and these days, collate) your resources as you will do during your PGCE.
M) Get into the habit of cooking quickly/freezing food. You will find the extra time in the evenings useful.
N) If you can get hold of the reading for next year already, do it now. Save the quotations/citations, and keep ahead of yourself.
O) Keep hydrated!
P) No, really, drink lots of water and get used to it. You’ll be doing a lot of talking and thinking, and without it you’ll be in trouble.
Q) Get at least two work suits. You will need every shred of authority and bluff you can muster in most places.
R) Go onto edublogs and begin following as many of the recommended blogs as you can.
S) Begin getting your CV in order (as you must have done already to apply to the PGCE!)
T) Be humble and helpful in your school placements. Make the coffee, bring the cake etc. If you haven’t already managed work experience people in your career already, you’ll know what this is like.
U) Realise that you are in a different position to a classroom teacher. While they have a history with the students and can quieten them with a stare, you might need more.
V) Keep your teaching simple. Make the students feel they have learnt something in every lesson you have with them.
W) Keep a sense of humour. The job is too important to take seriously.
X) If you haven’t worked in an inner-city school that has never/rarely been graded below ‘good’, find one that might take you on work experience/a visit. Open yours eyes before you commit to a place.
Y) Get ALL your books second hand, where possible.
Z) If you’re going to go out like a student middle of the week, bear in mind that will stay with you the rest of your career, in that school at least. You’re a student, yes… but not really!